S.Korean ruling party, govt agree on need to extend curbs

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the government on Wednesday agreed on the need to extend the current Covid-19 curbs.

The two sides reached the consensus during a meeting on the Covid-19 response, noting that key indicators, such as the operation of ICUs and the numbers of critically ill patients and deaths, have yet to improve, DP spokesperson Rep. Shin Hyun-young said at a press briefing.

The party asked, however, that the government consider making minor adjustments to the social distancing measures to minimise damage to specific business sectors, the spokesperson added.

The current virus curbs include a maximum private gathering size of four people and a 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. curfew on businesses. The government is expected to announce an update before the end of the scheme on Sunday.

Shin said the DP urged the government to look into providing advance compensation to small businesses hurt by the curbs and then settling accounts, citing the time required to complete the deliberation process for compensation, which could take up to five months.

Citing the opposition of some parents, the party also asked the government to reconsider its plan to enforce a vaccine pass system for all adolescents starting in February.

The system would require teenagers to present proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test when entering libraries, cram schools and other public facilities.

The government, meanwhile, said it has secured 90 million doses of vaccines but needs to increase its related budget from the current 3.2 trillion won ($2.7 billion) to prepare for a fourth round of vaccinations.

It also reported plans to increase the number of hospital beds from 19,000 to 25,000 and expand its budget for oral Covid-19 pills to treat an additional 400,000 people.

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